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Anderson honored with county’s highest honor for service, volunteerism –

by Terri Hogan

Senior Staff Writer

Dr. Winston Anderson, founder of Sandy Spring Slave Museum and African Art Gallery, was honored with Montgomery County’s highest honor for service and volunteerism.

The Roscoe R. Nix Distinguished Community Leadership Award, part of the Montgomery Service Awards, is presented each year to individuals who, over the course of their lives, have made extraordinary contributions to the quality of the community at the highest levels of excellence.

Anderson’s work as a scientist, activist and museum founder has played a vital role in expanding cross-cultural communication and diversity in education, historical expression, the arts and the humanities, according to the county.

This year’s other Roscoe R. Nix Distinguished Community Leadership Award winners are Jenny Sue Dunner of Chevy Chase and Anita Neal Powell of Rockville.

The award was established in 2012 by former County Executive Isiah Leggett to honor community icon Roscoe Nix, who gave a half-century of service to Montgomery County.

“It is an honor to receive one of the top awards for the county, especially in honor of Roscoe Nix, who is a legend for his efforts in academic excellence and service,” Anderson said. “It encourages one to pursue directions that enhance the culture and good will of the community.”

County Executive Marc Elrich presented the award to Anderson.

“Not content to simply have an impact in his professional field, [Dr. Anderson] is also engaged with his community,” Elrich said. “He founded the Sandy Spring Slave Museum and African Art Gallery, a place to discover and understand an important part of Montgomery County’s history.  He continues that work even now, helping us all to be better people through the knowledge he imparts and the inspiration he provides. We are fortunate and honored to have him call Montgomery County home.”

Anderson, 80, of Silver Spring, sees his service to the community as an opportunity to pay it forward.

He says his current focus is on developing the historical significance and legacies of the African-American community in the area.

One of Anderson’s recent projects has focused on the Sandy Spring Odd Fellows Hall, one of the few places accessible to African Americans for socializing during the era of segregation.

Anderson and a support team have been renovating the building, at 1310 Olney-Sandy Spring Road (Route 108), with a grant from the State of Maryland and hope to again make the lodge a center of social and cultural activity.

“I want to focus on the Slave Museum and Odd Fellows Hall, and my expectations are that these efforts will help recognize the Sandy Spring African-American community not as the ‘Free Negro Settlement’ that it has been referred to all these years — and a term he finds demeaning — but as an ‘African American Heritage Area.’”

He says it is time to look at the area with new eyes. In that context, his aims are to create signs to recognize local historical sites and develop an African American Heritage Trail; and to promote the historic role of the Odd Fellows Hall with a focus on art, culture and theater.

According to biographical information, Anderson was raised in rural Jamaica and immigrated to the United States at age 17. He earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in zoology from Howard University and a doctorate in biomedical sciences from Brown University.

Following postdoctoral work, he became an assistant professor at the University of Chicago’s Pritzker School of Medicine. In 1975, he was appointed chair of the Howard University Department of Zoology and served in that position until 1983, then remained on the faculty as a professor of biomedical science.

Beginning in 1977 and for the next decade, Anderson directed the Life Science Careers for Minority High School Students in the United States, which provided summer research opportunities throughout the country.

In 2006, with a grant from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, Anderson started the Howard Hughes Medical Research Scholars program, which selected talented science and math majors and immersed them in a research-intensive, mentored curriculum designed to give them a competitive edge for pursuing PhD degrees in the biomedical and related sciences.

The civil rights movement in the 1960s strengthened his commitment to empower Black people and led him to begin collecting historical items related to the African-American experience — many of which are displayed at Sandy Spring Slave Museum and African Art Gallery, which he founded in 1988 with his brother, Bernard.

The collection highlights the heritage of African-American families in Montgomery County and houses an extensive collection of African-American and African artifacts. It is located at 18524 Brooke Road.

His many honors include the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Engineering and Math, presented by President Barack Obama in 2011.


    The 2020 Montgomery Service Awards were scheduled to be presented at a gala in April, but the event was postponed and moved to a virtual platform on Oct. 15 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The event can be viewed at https://youtu.be/gJ0-JPOFtGE.

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